ANACONDA – The wrestling dual meet between Anaconda and Butte Thursday began with the 152-pound class, and it couldn’t have been written any better.
That left the best match of the night for the end, as Butte’s Levi Renz and Anaconda’s Bryan Armstrong met for the fourth time this season to the delight of the loud crowd at Anaconda’s Memorial Gym.
The dual result had already been decided – Butte High won 53-24 – but the top-ranked 145-pound Class AA wrestler and the top-ranked Class A 145-pound wrestler had yet another meeting on the mat. Armstrong, himself a former Bulldog, came out on top again, posting a 3-1 win over Renz for a perfect 4-0 record against the Butte High junior.
Armstrong downed Renz 5-1 at the Mining City Duals, 1-0 at the CMR Holiday Classic, 3-1 at the Tom LeProwse invitational in Bozeman prior to Thursday’s matchup. All close matches, though Armstrong has managed the top hand each time this season.
Thursday’s bout was just as tight. After the wrestlers both displayed good defense in a 0-0 deadlocked first period, Renz chose the bottom position for the second. He managed an escape a minute in, then narrowly avoided a takedown attempt by Armstrong near the end of the period. Armstrong opted for the bottom position in the third and quickly tied the bout with an escape. Renz managed a couple of good shot attempts, but was well countered both times by Armstrong. The final points came with 14 seconds left in the match when Armstrong turned a Renz shot into his own single leg takedown, and walked off with the win, much to the approval of the partisan crowd in the Snake Pit.
“There was a shot and re-shot at the end,” Butte High head coach Jim Bob Humphrey said. “Bryan did a nice job wrestling out of it. He did a nice job getting that shot to close it out.”
Anaconda head coach Jerry Arneson termed the match a battle. “You hate to wrestle the same guy four times, but it’s good for both of them,” he said. “They’re making each other better wrestlers.”
Butte High got a big win at 170 pounds, where Nick Challeen held off the top-ranked Class A wrestler at that weight in Ethan Reich. Challeen scored the first takedown and managed a couple of back points to end the first period with a 6-2 advantage. Wrestling on an injured ankle, Reich could only come up with a pair of reversals and an escape, as Challeen notched an 11-5 victory.
“Kudos to Ethan,” Humphrey said. “You could tell his ankle was killing him, but Nick came out and wrestled hard and got the win.”
Bridger Mooney also put in a nice performance at 132, where he pulled off a third period pin of Drew Vaughn. Mooney had wrestled JV earlier in the night, but was inserted into the varsity lineup at the last minute by Humphrey.
“I thought Bridger gave us the best shot to win that match,” Humphrey said. “I was real pleased with him.”
Mason Mavrinac started the dual off for Anaconda at 152 pounds, where he ignited the crowd with a quick pin of Butte Kaden Schonsberg after a throw to his back.
Butte’s Andy Anderson knotted the team scored at 6-6 with a first-period pin of J.J. Zenahlik at 160 pounds before Challeen’s win at 170. Wyatt Merkel followed up with a solid 6-0 decision over Giovanni Molina at 182.
Lee Cannon had Anaconda 195-pounder Seamus Tweedy on his back four times in the first period, but the Copperhead fought out each time. It was a matter of time, however, and Cannon scored the pin early in the second period.
Heavyweight Bryce Wigert got the home crowd back into the swing of things when he utilized a sharp head-and-arm throw to score a pin of Butte’s Connor Lee. Anaconda rolled on at 106, where Carson Meyer used a rare spladle to pin Tyler Vetter, and again at 113 where Trey Smollack registered a 15-8 decision over Butte freshman Bryson Henningsen.
Kelly Merrick helped Butte reverse the momentum, as he notched five team points with a technical fall win over Brandon Bisch at 120. Ax Henningsen, the fourth ranked 126-pounder in the Class AA ranks, needed just 100 seconds to pin Slone Ueland, and then Mooney followed up with his victory.
“I thought it might have been a little closer,” Arneson said of the final score. “We had a few matches where we could have done a little better, but it was a good night.”
Humphrey said he likes the direction his team is headed.
“I feel like we’re progressing,” he said. “We talk a lot about getting better; it’s starting to show a little bit.”
Both coaches will take wrestlers to a mixer in Dillon Friday, though both coaches will leave some wrestlers behind to heal up.
“We’ll take a mixed bag down,” Humphrey said. “But if they’re banged up, they’re staying home.”
“It’s a grueling season,” Arneson said. “We’ve got a few nicks, and we’ll probably rest a few guys, but we’re pretty healthy otherwise.”
Butte High 53, Anaconda 24
98 – Tyler Casey, Butte, won by forfeit; 106 – Carson Meyer, Ana, pinned Tyler Vetter, 1:27; 113 – Trey Smollack, Ana, dec. Bryson Henningsen, 15-8; 120 – Kelly Merrick, Butte, techfall Brandon Bisch, 19-3; 126 – Braxton Henningsen, Butte, pinned Slone Ueland, 1:40; 132 – Bridger Mooney, Butte, pinned Drew Vaughan, 4:24; 138 – Willy Anderson, Butte, pinned Brevlin Thompson, 1:17; 145 – Bryan Armstrong, Ana, dec. Levi Renz, 3-1; 152 – Mason Mavrinac, Ana, pinned Kaden Schonsberg, :25; 160 – Andrew Anderson, Butte, pinned J.J. Zenahlik, 1:34; 170 – Nick Challeen, Butte, dec. Ethan Reich 11-5; 182 – Wyatt Merkel, Butte, dec. Giovani Molina, 6-0; 195 – Lee Cannon, Butte, pinned Seamus Tweedy, 2:27; 220 – Connor O’Neil won by forfeit; 285 – Bryce Wigert, Ana, pinned Connor Lee, :21.